Verizon Lobbies FCC To Block States From Protecting Broadband Privacy, Net Neutrality

from the states-rights...when-convenient dept

Earlier this year, the Trump administration and GOP handed a giant gift to the nation’s telecom duopolies when they dismantled FCC broadband privacy protections. While ISPs whined incessantly about the rules, the protections were relatively modest — simply requiring that large ISPs be transparent about what personal data is being collected and sold, who it’s being sold to, and that working opt out tools be provided to consumers. The FCC’s rules were only created after Verizon was caught modifying packets to covertly track users around the internet and AT&T tried to make consumer privacy a luxury add on.

But in the wake of the GOP’s myopic dismantling of the rules, more than 30 states began considering their own disparate privacy protections for consumers. The EFF threw its support behind one such bill in California, arguing that it could provide a good template for other states to follow in order to gain some uniformity. But Google, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon collectively lobbied to scuttle that law last month, leaked documents showing how they lied to California lawmakers by claiming the rules would have emboldened extremists, boosted annoying popups, and somehow harmed consumers.

On the heels of that victory, Verizon is now lobbying the FCC to ban states from trying to protect consumer privacy. FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly had already hinted at this path in recent speeches to industry-backed think tanks, but what this effort would look like isn’t yet clear. In a recent letter and white paper submitted to the FCC (pdf), Verizon urges the FCC to use its authority to block these state laws, and warned of the perils of states trying to actually protect consumers from unchecked broadband duopolists:

“Allowing every State and locality to chart its own course for regulating broadband is a recipe for disaster. It would impose localized and likely inconsistent burdens on an inherently interstate service, would drive up costs, and would frustrate federal efforts to encourage investment and deployment by restoring the free market that long characterized Internet access service.”

There’s a few things Verizon’s ignoring. One, states wouldn’t be rushing to create a patchwork quilt of consumer protections if Verizon lobbyists hadn’t successfully convinced former Verizon lawyer turned FCC boss Ajit Pai to kill existing, modest federal protections. This is entirely a problem of ISP lobbyists’ making.

It’s also worth noting that ISPs like Verizon have spent decades writing and buying protectionist, competition-killing state laws in order to protect their regional broadband mono/duopolies. When folks have pointed out that maybe giant ISPs shouldn’t be writing shitty state law, ISPs (and the lawmakers paid to love them) have cried about the trampling of “states rights.” Yet when those same states actually try to do something good for the end user, trampling those same rights appears to be a non-issue. That’s an obvious double standard by any measure.

Further on in the white paper Verizon makes it clear that it’s also worried that states will rush to protect net neutrality after the FCC votes to kill existing net neutrality rules later this year:

“States and localities have given strong indications that they are prepared to take a similar approach to net neutrality laws if they are dissatisfied with the result of the Restoring Internet Freedom proceeding. Notably, the New York State Attorney General claims that ?the role of the states in protecting consumers and competition on the Internet remains critical and necessary.?

Yes, the absolute unbridled horror of states protecting consumers and small businesses after the federal government has become a glorified rubber stamp for broadband duopolies! Again — if Verizon doesn’t want states creating broadband-focused consumer protections, it should stop trying to dismantle every federal consumer protection in existence. That includes the extremely popular (and again, relatively modest by international standards) net neutrality protections currently on the books.

Verizon believes it should be completely free of anything even vaguely resembling oversight as it shifts its focus, rather clumsily, toward being a Millennial advertising engine. But while Verizon has argued for years it can self-regulate without adequate oversight, the lack of competition in most Verizon markets highlights how that’s simply not practical. From the company’s covert tracking of users using “zombie cookies,” to its ongoing efforts to sell your personal data without informing you or letting you opt out, Verizon continues to make it perfectly clear that privacy and transparency are a distant afterthought, a problem they won’t be fixing voluntarily.

That leaves us with two choices: improving market competition to increase organic pressure until Verizon behaves, or leaning on some fairly basic regulatory oversight to ensure consumer privacy is protected by some basic rules of the road. Verizon would obviously prefer it if the country did neither, and so far we seem more than happy to accommodate.

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Comments on “Verizon Lobbies FCC To Block States From Protecting Broadband Privacy, Net Neutrality”

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25 Comments
jilocasin (profile) says:

So Verizon once again putting it's proverbial foot in its mouth?

Just like Verizon managed to get Title II Net Neutrality passed as a response to their suing the loop-hole ridden rules (that they helped write) out of existence, it looks like they are well on their way to getting stronger state level privacy and neutrality laws passed as a reaction to the attempt to remove the existing rather moderate laws on the books.

They just can’t seem to quit while they are ahead.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So Verizon once again putting it's proverbial foot in its mouth?

“pro-consumer administration”

There has not been one of those for a long time at least not since I have been aware of presidential administrations since Clinton.

And NO Obama was not pro-consumer, he was just good at hiding his pro-big business activities because he was a democrat and got a pass.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: So Verizon once again putting it's proverbial foot in its mouth?

obama isn’t even a citizen of usa. Everything he did to America should be undone. These treasonous people someday are going to stink up HELL. As for these runaway greedy disrespectful corporations butt fucking the world JUST STOP GIVING THEM MONEY.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So Verizon once again putting it's proverbial foot in its mouth?

I’m hoping they successfully merge with Charter and Comcast and become an indisputable monopoly. Then when we elect a slightly less crappy president the administration will bust them apart. Something greater than campaign contribution and lobbying dollars needs to happen to force change in this industry.

mcinsand (profile) says:

another reason for net neutrality (tell me I'm paranoid)

Something else nagging at me is a thought that net neutrality also guarantees that internet data transfer is a lump commodity. Once we start slicing and dicing into different classes, I could see data ‘consumption’ as a ripe target for shafting the citizens even further. Both sides of the aisle have their own version of sin taxes, whether the far right taxes beer, the far left taxes soda, or pick another set of examples. What if the factions that believe videogames lead to violence start applying large taxes to related data transfers (it’s for the children, after all)? I’ll have to admit that my biases would tempt me to stay silent if reality ‘entertainment’ streaming was taxed into the stone age, though I hope that I’d have enough integrity to argue.

With net neutrality, though, I do feel more secure about all data treated equally.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: another reason for net neutrality (tell me I'm paranoid)

No, as the slices of the “pie” would become more distinct to everyone, all the more reason to treat it like a pie and section certain areas off for special reasons, and not treat the Internet as a “tube” or consistent pipeline of data only limited arbitrarily by your ISP.

You’re not being paranoid, sadly… gaming could become feasible only for those who can pay for it, in the name of greater ISP profits.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: another reason for net neutrality (tell me I'm paranoid)

You’re not being paranoid, sadly… gaming could become feasible only for those who can pay for it, in the name of greater ISP profits.

Actually, that would just bring about the resurrection of Dedicated Servers, and maybe (just maybe) finally get the industry out of it’s "release alpha build at launch, and after several multigigabyte patches later get it up to beta, while locking half of the content behind a paywall" rut. Maybe it gets Blurays off the ground for selling new games instead of expecting people to pay the ridiculous surcharges the ISPs will want for downloading something like DOOM (2016).

Of course the rest of the net would move to ad-hoc wireless or BBSes to avoid the major filters present everywhere. (Both to protect the children, and enforce the ISP’s paywall.) But, that’s the price we pay for allowing the idiot masses on in the first place. They lack the ability to use it properly, and should have been kicked off for it years ago.

tom (profile) says:

The real problem is that Verizon considers the real consumers are the companies purchasing the vast troves of data that Verizon collects on folks paying for ISP/Cable/Cell service. The folks purchasing the ISP etc services are just data generators that are funding the data collection infrastructure. Anything that limits the ability to collect and market data is a direct threat to Verizon’s bottom line. The profit margin on the data sales is probably near 100%, The profit margin on providing ISP etc services is a lot less.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

An awful lot of companies lying to lawmakers and regulators

I take that the perjury laws we have don’t apply to these lies?

I take our legislators don’t bother to distrust companies and departments whose agents lie to them?

Last I checked, deception is an act of hostility. It’s frustrating that it’s not being treated as one.

Christopher (profile) says:

Serious question inside.

Given the appointment of an obvious Verizon puppet to the head of the FCC, and given the real lack of interest by the current executive office of the US to protect ordinary citizens, what realistic choices do we have?

The author states: “That leaves us with two choices: improving market competition to increase organic pressure until Verizon behaves, or leaning on some fairly basic regulatory oversight to ensure consumer privacy is protected by some basic rules of the road.”

Putting aside the fallacy of two choices, what are the realistic chances of improving organic market conditions? Zero, I’ll just skip to the answer.

What are the chances of any basic regulatory oversight during the next three years? Zero.

So, unless someone can show another way to break this, I don’t see any way to stop them. Writing letters to the FCC means nothing — they don’t have to listen, and from what I can see, no one can compel them to work for our interests.

So someone please explain how to force the FCC to protect us… because if we’re forced to fight state-by-state against VZ, were going to lose.

-C

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